Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland situated at the front of your neck. It makes a hormone that controls growth and metabolism. People most commonly have their thyroid removed if they show suspicious growths.
“Most of the time it’s because they have a mass in the thyroid, they feel it or sometimes they have problems swallowing. And occasionally have respiratory wheezing because it’s compressing on their windpipe,” says Dr. William Kokal, general surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.
A primary concern is cancer.
“Say you came in with a thyroid mass, we’d set you up for an ultrasound guided biopsy. We would have that done, see you back and then discuss the results. And then if that were suspicious for cancer, you’d have surgery,” says Dr. Kokal.
Thyroid removal or a thyroidectomy may also be performed to remove a large goiter, or treat hyperthyroidism. Surgeons make their incision along the crease of the neck to minimize noticeable scarring.
“In general it’s a pretty safe procedure. The two most common problems are vocal cord injury and temporary vocal cord injury; which occurs in about 10%, meaning the voice eventually comes back,” says Dr. Kokal.
People can get by without a thyroid, but it requires lifelong hormone therapy.
“They have thyroid mediations, you take once a day, it will totally replace your thyroid function without problems,” says Dr. Kokal.
How fast you recover depends on your age and overall health.